Competing in front of fans and family
Haylie McCleney won gold in Softball with Team USA at The World Games 2022 in Birmingham, USA. The 28-year-old professional Softball outfielder hails from Morris, a town 30 kilometres north of Birmingham. Winning the Games in front of 10,000 spectators at the Hoover Met Stadium was, in a way, a home game for her. In the IWGA Interview of the Month, she recalls those summer days in Birmingham one year ago.
One year has passed since TWG 2022. Do you still think about the days of Birmingham from time to time?
Haylie McCleney: Yes absolutely. There were so many incredible memories during that week in Birmingham, specifically me being able to compete on the World Stage in front of my friends and family.
The World Games 2022 promised a once-in-a-lifetime experience. How did the event keep this promise for you?
Haylie McCleney: The World Games was unlike any event I have ever been a part of and was a unique experience. I enjoyed getting to interact with athletes from sports I had never been around.
How important to you was the revenge at The World Games for the 2021 finals in Japan?
Haylie McCleney: I wouldn't use the word revenge. It is always nice to beat Japan, especially on home soil, but we respect everything they are as a Softball team and know they continue to push the game forward the right way. Even if we had beaten them in Tokyo, it would have still felt good to get that win in Birmingham to defend our home soil.
How did you perceive The World Games overall?
Haylie McCleney: It was a great and professional experience and I was honoured to be a part of it.
Was it a home run of sorts for you to participate in the Games as an athlete from Alabama?
Haylie McCleney: It was a dream come true to wear USA across my chest and compete in my home town and home state. I never could have dreamed it was a possibility.
Can you say how people in Alabama or Birmingham remember the Games after one year?
Haylie McCleney: I like to think the people of Alabama and the city of Birmingham are extremely proud to have hosted such an incredible event for athletes from all over the world.
Is there any kind of legacy of the 2022 TWG in Alabama or Birmingham?
Haylie McCleney: I think the word that comes to mind is hospitality. The staff, volunteers, and every single helper that made TWG 2022 possible, were amazing in the athletes’ experience. I'm proud to represent the state and the city on the field competing, but all the people behind the scenes made a lasting impact on people from all over the world. That is something I am incredibly proud of as an Alabamian.
Is one of your goals to be back in 2025 when The World Games are held in China?
Haylie McCleney: I can't say for sure yet if I will continue to play that long, but it would be an honour to be back. I'm taking my career one step at a time.
The World Games is a multi-sport event staged every four years by the International World Games Association, organised with the support of the International Olympic Committee. The World Games 2022 was held in Birmingham, Alabama, USA, 7-17 July 2022. 3,600 athletes from 34 sports and 100 countries took part in the Games. The 12th edition of The World Games will be held in Chengdu, CHN in 2025.